Why Are We All So Afraid Of Taking The Subway?

by Christie Grimm · April 13, 2021

    I don't know about you, but I haven't taken a subway since February of last year. And while there are plenty of rich people who have been living in the city sans subway for ages, this current dry spell is so not an accurate portrait of my normal life. Honestly, as a frugal, impatient girl about town who also happens to get car sick, I am all about the subway.

    For the most part, these many pandemic months I've just sucked it up and walked wherever I need to go. Last spring I finally gave Citi Bike a try - more for leisure than real transport, but still. And the few times that I've needed to get all the way uptown, I've taken an Uber.

    Before you jump to obvious conclusions, it's not COVID concerns that have kept me from swiping my Metro card (I never for a second thought sanitizing my groceries was a real thing to do). It's the question of safety that's kept me above ground. And I am not alone.

    A newly released survey by The Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows that 73% of riders who have yet to return to their subway routine are “very concerned about crime and harassment.”

    And to me, that makes sense. Ridership is about 65% lower than it was prior to the pandemic. Like, safety in numbers, anyone? And whether it's on the tracks or in the station, it definitely feels like we're seeing more violent incidents taking place lately.

    But maybe that's the problem. That it feels like you're seeing more violent incidents taking place on the subway lately because you're just actually paying attention for once. 

    Prior to this crazy year, I had no clue what the Citizen app was. I was just an ignorance-is-bliss fool walking through life with little awareness as to the reported goings on happening around me. Now, a car can't backfire in my neighborhood without me being alerted there's a suspected shooting.

    Would you believe me if I said that this year, subway crime is down at about the same rate as ridership? As communicated by NYPD data, the number of major felonies reported in the subway this January and February was down by 62% compared to those same pre-pandemic months in 2020.

    Still on anxiously high alert from last year, it's hard to ignore the stories of stabbings and innocent bystanders being pushed onto the tracks. But, in terms of the numbers, we seem to be doing okay... right?

    As of February of this year, the New York Post reported that minor assaults have dipped 45 percent. And while that number may not totally match the dip in ridership, as one would hope to see at the very least, it's also not an increase.

    Last October, the New York Times published the piece "Subways Are Less Busy And Less Safe," citing a major increase in MTA uniformed, unarmed security guards, M.T.A. police officers and city police officers patrolling the transit system. Which is not only a big step towards making sure riders are safer, but making them feel safer too. 76 percent of those who answered the MTA's previously mentioned survey said that they feel safer in the presence of uniformed officers.

    So all this to say, is it time we start dipping our toes back in the subway sludge pond?

    Just think of how many pizza rats have gone undocumented in the past year!?!

    Pizza Rat

    [Photo via @camillecharriere]